Meg Keene, editor of A Practical Wedding, the "largest independently held wedding publication in the world," recently penned a fascinating article for BuzzFeed. Keene illustrates how wedding prices, which were relatively low for her parents' generation, have ballooned over the decades. Her father, who married her mother in 1974, is a mathematician with an amazing memory for numbers, so they were able to break down the costs of a 1970s wedding compared to what it would cost today.
Keene's parents were married in Grace Cathedral, a massive church in downtown San Francisco. (Just those words send a shiver down my wallet.) In 1974, three days after Christmas, renting the church cost $100, as did the organist. The verger (who aided in the ceremony) was only $50, adding up to a whopping $250 for the entire space. Accounting for inflation, that's about $1,201 in today's dollars.
Keene's parents went all out with invitations. They chose the engraved option, and invited over 600 people. In 1974, these invitations cost another $250, which probably seemed crazy to them. Why pay as much for the invitations as for the church?
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After their massive investment in the invitations, Keene's parents decided to go small-scale with their flowers. Since the ceremony was just after Christmas, they took advantage of the holiday flowers that were still hanging around the church, so they needed only bouquets for the bride and bridesmaids, flowers for the flower girl (a must), and a couple arrangements for the reception. Total 1974 cost: a very thrifty $50.
But hold up! This category has an additional caveat. It turns out the cathedral now has a list of approved florists one must choose from. The minimum cost? $8,000. DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT USING FLOWERS FROM THE CEREMONY AT THE RECEPTION. THAT'S AGAINST THE RULES! Oh, and even if your venue doesn't make you buy from a pre-approved vendor, good luck!
This one's short and simple. Obviously cameras and the people who use them have become a lot better at what they do since 1974. Meg's parents paid $50 for their wedding photographer ($240 in today's money). Photographers are common enough that you can probably track down someone within any price range, if you have the time and a willingness to roll the dice on a "discount" option.
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Keene's parents made some frugal choices. They bought the wedding dress at half price, for $195 including the veil. In 2017 bucks, that's $937. These days, affordable dress options have been on the rise, but even with the caveat of getting a dress half off, a conservative final tally still comes in at $1,900, a 102 percent increase. Compared to some other increases, however, this is almost a blessing.
The money Meg's parents saved on a wedding dress went straight into their cake. Remember how they invited 600 people? Well, the happy couple thought every single one of those people deserved a full, birthday-cake sized serving. How is this possible? Five massive tiers, held together mostly by the love of these two people. It cost them $100, which would be $480 adjusted for inflation. None of the bakers Keene called for quotes offered any cakes of this size; the closest she could find was a five-tier cake that would serve 300, plus sheet cakes to serve the second 300.
This is the big one. Hoping to recoup their costs from the city-block-size wedding cake, Keene's parents served only hors d’oeuvres at the reception. They held it at the San Francisco's Marines’ Memorial Club, where they got a sizable discount because one of their parents was a founding member, and just served punch instead of having an open bar. Total cost: $1,200 — just $5,769 in today's money. Fantastic! Sadly, this is a pipe dream.
All in all, Keene's parents paid $2,095 for their wedding, which would be $10,068 adjusted for inflation. The actual cost of their wedding today would be $47,286. Keene attributes this 370 percent increase in the modern demand for perfection when it comes to all things wedding. In her words:
...wedding vendors aren’t out to get you; most are small business owners who are charging for the increase in time, attention, and ~perfection~ that couples and their parents have come to expect.
Regardless of why, however, it's undeniable that prices have risen dramatically. Perhaps that's something to tell your parents if they ever get on your back for how much money the wedding is going to cost!